Military denies food blockade in Sulu

A military spokesman on Thursday denied reports that troops are blocking the entry of food supplies to Indanan town, Sulu province, where the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Albader Parad is believed to be holding three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers captive.

Lt. Col. Edgardo Arevalo, Philippine Navy spokesman, said the military blockade was preventing bandit reinforcements and the entry of ammunitions, rather than food, in Indanan town.

“There is no food blockade. We don’t know where that information [came] from. We’ve repeatedly stated that what we’re depriving them (bandits) is reinforcement of personnel and refurbishment of guns and ammunitions,” Arevalo said in a text message to ABS-CBN Zamboanga.

Reports said the military has resorted to a food blockade in Indanan town following a clash between Parad’s group and the military’s anti-terror group, Task Force Comet, in Barangay Timahu, Indanan early last week.

The clash took place while Parad’s group was trying to breach the military’s cordon around the town.

In a phone interview with ABS-CBN News, kidnapped ICRC worker Mary Jean Lacaba said food has become scarce in their area. She added that since last week’s clash, she and the two other ICRC workers — Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni — have become more frightened of possible eruption of gunshots.

Civil relations chief Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, meanwhile, said the military has maintained its position in Indanan to keep pressure on Parad’s group and prevent them from leaving the town.

Pangilinan said troops pursuing the bandits have been ordered to suspend operations against the bandits. He, however, said the troops are always ready to fight if provoked by the bandits.

Arevalo had said that the military’s position in Indanan “far enough to allow the crisis committee to do its part, but near enough to maintain the pressure on the terrorists and break their will to fight and eventually release the victims.”

Parad had promised to release one of the ICRC workers in exchange of a military pullout from Indanan. The Abu Sayyaf leader specified that they want troops in Tagbak village in Indanan and Patikul town to pull out.

The military believes Parad’s group and the three hostages are in the southernmost part of Indanan, a few kilometers only from Parang town.

Leila Vicente, ABS-CBN Zamboanga

Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 3:33 pm  Comments Off on Military denies food blockade in Sulu  
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